Resisting Tyranny: A Universal Right - by Stephen Lendman
In America's Declaration of Independence, Jefferson declared:
"all men (are) created equal....with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (code for property). That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends. it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government," serving them "to effect their safety and happiness."
Long established governments shouldn't "be changed for light and transient causes....But when a long train of abuses and usurpations (establishes) absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government," replacing it with one serving everyone equitably.
In addition, Jefferson said "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God." Women's rights advocate Susan B. Anthony also said "I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim that 'Resistance to tyranny it obedience to God.' "
In his second Treatise of Government, as part of his social contract theory, English philosopher John Locke, the Father of Liberalism, addressed the "Right of Revolution," saying:
"....acting for the preservation of the Community, there can be but one Supream (sic) Power, which is the Legislature, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate, yet the Legislature being only a Fiduciary Power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the People a Supream Power to remove or alter the Legislature, when they find the Legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them."
When government fails the people, its "trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the Power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security."
In other words, people have supreme power. Governments are instituted to serve them. When they fail, replacing them is their rightful choice, including by revolution.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
"If the law purports to require actions that no-one should ever do, it cannot rightly be complied with; one's moral obligation is not to obey but to disobey....If the lawmakers (i) are motivated not by concern for the community's common good but by greed or vanity (private motivations that make them tyrants, whatever the content of their legislation), or (ii) act outside the authority granted to them, or (iii) while acting with a view to the common good apportion the necessary burdens unfairly, their laws are unjust and in the forum of reasonable conscience are not so much laws as acts of violence....Such laws lack moral authority, i.e. do not bind in conscience; one is neither morally obligated to conform nor morally obligated not to conform."
"All who govern in the interests of themselves rather than of the common good are tyrants....Against the regime's efforts to enforce its decrees, one has the right of forcible resistance; as a private right this could extend as far as killing the tyrant as a foreseen side-effect of one's legitimate self-defence."
Martin Luther King wrote:
"I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."
King's strategy, his hoped for cycle of justice, was to disobey unjust laws, accept punishment, arouse public awareness, advocate legislative corrections, have them enacted, and change society beneficially. He practiced nonviolent civil disobedience, not revolution, no matter how just the latter. Importantly, however, he believed that fighting injustice depends on civil action. He defended it on moral grounds, saying "the time is always ripe to do right." He also said:
"I am convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good." He championed "creative protest." Passivity is no option in the face of injustice.